Monday, 30th October 2017

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Et tu, Congress?

If Narendra Modi gave "autonomy" a bad name and hanged it, the Congress provided the rope.

By Sanjay K. Jha
  • Published 30.10.17
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Chidambaram

New Delhi: If Narendra Modi gave "autonomy" a bad name and hanged it, the Congress provided the rope.

P. Chidambaram's statement so alarmed Congress communications chief Randeep Surjewala that he issued a statement on Saturday night itself. "Individual opinion is not necessarily the party opinion. Individuals may have different personal opinions but the Congress believes that the solution for lasting peace and prosperity in J&K lies solely within the framework of India's Constitution," Surjewala's statement said.

The panic reaction dismayed several party leaders but they chose silence, preferring to wait till the "facts are verified as to how and why this was approved by Rahul Gandhi or any other authorised person".

Young Kashmiri Congress leader Salman Soz reacted to BJP IT cell chief Amit Malviya's comment that the Congress advocated azadi. Soz retweeted a user who made fun of Malviya's reading comprehension. "Illiteracy is a curse," Soz commented. But he too ignored his own party's stand.

In private, several Congress leaders reacted with anger. A former Union minister told The Telegraph: "We can trust Modi and the BJP to comment without reading correctly or deliberately twist facts. But our own spokespersons are doing the same thing. It is shocking."

He added: "The autonomy question is embedded in the accession treaty and Article 370.... It is settled that devolution of power will happen within the constitutional framework."

Another former minister asked: "If autonomy is not to be mentioned, what will the interlocutor discuss, the weather?"

Chidambaram did not react to Surjewala's statement, whose assertion that the Congress believed that a solution lay within the framework of the Constitution implied that Chidambaram had suggested something outside the Constitution.

One former Union minister told The Telegraph: "The autonomy question is embedded in the accession treaty and Article 370, and has survived accords between Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Abdullah and Rajiv Gandhi and Farooq Abdullah. It is settled that devolution of power will happen within the constitutional framework."

A senior Kashmir Congress leader said on the condition of anonymity: "We will raise it with Rahulji. The party spokesperson should know the nuances."

Another former minister asked: "Have we forgotten what the committee set up by Manmohan Singh had said in its report in 2009? Didn't it acknowledge that autonomy was one of the key issues raised during the negotiations? We shouldn't meekly surrender to the BJP's distortion of history."